Steeple Bumpstead volunteer network is proving to be a vital lifeline for many residents
The village of Steeple Bumpstead has shown resilience and community strength by setting up and operating a co-ordinated support network to lift the spirits of its 1,600 plus residents during the COVID-19 crisis.
The success of the Steeple Bumpstead Neighbourhood Network scheme is down to the 35 volunteer co-ordinators who are each responsible for their own street or area of the village.
These volunteers provide help for those self-isolating, with shopping and errands or simply as a friendly face, linking into a smaller prescription medicines’ collection team which runs a daily collection service for the whole village from a number of nearby dispensaries.
The Network was first set up in mid-March, in good time to establish a Facebook page solely for residents and their families, identify willing volunteers for the street network who would deliver leaflets offering the help, and to link volunteers to each other though the Network’s dedicated WhatsApp channels.
With social media and cloud-based resources underpinning the whole project, volunteers have been able to use specially designed posters and leaflets, giving residents the confidence and reassurance of an organised community scheme.
The Neighbourhood Network put up posters in every road and walkway across the village and around the outskirts, and published its list of volunteers by street to let everyone know what was going on.
It went on to establish links with Braintree DC, Essex CC and other valuable bodies including Citizen’s Advice.
A core team of helpers and parish council representatives established clear safety, data protection and safeguarding guidance for volunteers and residents, and have since met on a regular basis to keep everything on track.
The team also set up a number of connected activities including a dedicated email address and follow-up leaflet drops, using its main Facebook page to keep residents and families informed about its volunteering support, posting fact-checked information and government resources relating to COVID-19, sharing community activity, and showcasing residents’ talent in the response to calls for help from the NHS.
Josephine Culhane, a resident said, ‘I have to shield as I drive every day to care for my mother who has heart failure, breathing problems and is on home oxygen.
"I also need to go to the pharmacy to collect both our prescriptions.
"When street volunteer Claire Lambert told me about the network, I was so relieved and grateful.
"Lovely people have rolled up with our prescriptions and it is so efficient.
"I get a nice warm glow knowing that this situation is showing how many generous and altruistic people there are in the world... and in our village."
Another resident, Robert Argent then told us about Pat, who is 97 with very limited mobility, and her live-in carer.
"Both are self-isolating and when the family received the flyer, they contacted street volunteer Liz Heyer who has been shopping for them each week ever since.
"As the family have all been staying at home, they are ‘indebted to Liz and the marvellous Steeple Bumpstead Neighbourhood Network."
Neighbourhood Network spokesperson, Catherine Condie said, "We are so grateful to the amazing team of volunteers for making a real difference by being on hand to do the shopping, collect medicines and generally to lift the spirits of others around them.
"None of us knows when we may need help if we have to self-isolate for any reason. We are proud to be part of a community that has such a willingness to step forward and rise to this challenge."
Steeple Bumpstead has plans to continue the Neighbourhood Network beyond COVID-19 as a permanent resource for its residents.
More by this authorSteve Barton
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